Best games consoles 2021: How to choose between PS5, Xbox Series X and Nintendo Switch

Which gaming console is the best? It’s an argument many of us grew up with on the school playground, and one that somehow still rages across the most tedious parts of the internet in 2022. Xbox or PlayStation? Nintendo or Sega? Daddy or chips?

Okay, so it’s been a while since Sega has been in contention for the crown, but the rivalry between the industry’s main players is more fierce today than it’s ever been.

Microsoft and Sony both produce near-identical, cutting-edge games, machines capable of incredible visual effects with silky smooth performance and blisteringly fast loading times. And both companies are investing enormously to secure exclusive new games, subscription services and streaming technologies to ensure that their console is the one you choose to buy next.

Nintendo competes on a different level with the Nintendo Switch, a portable console that’s home to Nintendo games you won’t find anywhere else, and which are some of the most wildly creative, colourful and inventive experiences available on any platform. And lately, tech giant Valve stormed into the ring with its own handheld gaming PC, the SteamDeck, which bridges the divide between console and PC lets you take your entire library of Steam games with you everywhere you go.

At IndyBest we’re fans of gaming across all platforms, and so we’re well-positioned to lend our expert guidance and help you decide which games console is best for you. Keep in mind that the Xbox series X and PlayStation 5 are in high demand and regularly sell out at major UK retailers, and so the prices listed below could reflect inflated second-hand prices at auction sites.

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Once you know which console you’re looking for, check out our guides to where to buy a PS5 and where to buy an Xbox series X to be certain you’re getting a fair price from a reliable seller. There you’ll also find links to our stock tracking liveblogs, to give you an even better chance of grabbing a console before they’re gone.

How we tested:

Gaming consoles are only as good as the games they’ve got, and we’ve been regularly playing all of these consoles since they launched to bring you our coverage of the best games on each platform. Our team of writers has a broad range of interests and plays across more than one console, with favourite genres spanning from blockbuster first-person shooters and online RPGs to annual sports games and flight simulators.

The best games consoles in 2022 are:

  • Best PlayStation experience – PlayStation 5: £449.99, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best Xbox experience – Xbox series X: £449.99, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best Nintendo experience – Nintendo Switch OLED: £329.99, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best budget Xbox – Xbox series S: £249, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best portable PC – Steam Deck: £349, Steampowered.com
  • Best budget Nintendo Switch – Nintendo Switch: £259, Currys.co.uk
  • Best budget PlayStation – PlayStation 4 pro: £260, Amazon.co.uk

PlayStation 5

Currys said that games consoles, including the PS5, saw positive sales (Sony/PA)
  • CPU: Custom 8-core AMD Zen 2 Variable frequency up to 3.5 GHz
  • GPU: Custom AMD RDNA 2 36 CUs Variable frequency up to 2.23 GHz 10.3 TFLOPS peak
  • Memory: 16 GB/256-bit GDDR6 SDRAM + 512 MB DDR4 RAM (for background tasks)
  • Storage: Custom 825 GB PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSD
  • Resolution: 4K with HDR
  • Pros: 3D audio, dualsense controller,
  • Cons: Just absolutely massive, Hard to get a hold of

The PS5 has been particularly difficult to get a hold of since November 2020 for good reason. It’s a marked improvement on Sony’s hardware and the company’s commitment to creating high quality gaming experiences under the “Playstation Studios” umbrella.

One of the first thing you will notice about the PS5 is how games feel in your hands, thanks to the dualsense controller’s haptic feedback and adaptive triggers. Beyond graphical capability, it’s the most sensory innovation that next-gen console gaming has shown us so far. Of course, Sony’s burgeoning library of first-party titles are the best to make use of this, Astro’s Playroom being a particularly standout experience, but other titles are also starting to make good use of the hardware.

Read more: Where to buy the PlayStation 5

The Playstation 5 has two versions available: The disc edition and digital edition. While the digital edition is £100 cheaper it does not include a disc drive and if you have already built up a substantial library of PS4 games then you may want to consider opting for the disc edition instead.

The PS5 has slowly built up an impressive library of games in its early lifespan between Demon’s Souls, Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, Returnal, Deathloop and more recently, Horizon Forbidden West and with the upcoming PS VR2 predicted to arrive this year, this is certainly the console to beat when it comes to hardware.

Read the full PS5 review

Xbox series X

  • CPU: 8X Cores @ 3.8 GHz (3.66 GHz w/SMT) Custom Zen 2 CPU
  • GPU: 12 TFLOPS, 52 CUs @1.825 GHz Custom RDNA 2 GPU
  • Memory: 16GB GDDR6 w/320 bit-wide bus
  • Storage: 1TB Custom NVME SSD (expandable)
  • Resolution: 4k @ 120Hz
  • Pros: Looks good on a shelf, backwards compatible as far back as Xbox 360, Game Pass is the best deal in games
  • Cons: No haptic feedback, no VR, fewer great exclusive games (for now)

The most advanced member if the Xbox family, the Xbox series X goes toe-to-toe with the rival PlayStation 5 on every front.

On paper the two machines are almost indistinguishable. Both offer the latest cutting-edge graphics and run games at 4K resolutions and at up to 120Hz refresh rates. Both are capable of advanced rendering techniques such as real-time ray-tracing, which enables photorealistic lighting and reflection effects, and have the memory and processing power required to handle incredibly high-fidelity textures, models and particle effects.

Read more: Xbox series X review – the fastest and most powerful Xbox ever

The PlayStation pulls ahead with its innovative haptic feedback controller and marginally faster loading times, thanks to its custom-built SSD. But the Xbox series X regains ground with a smaller and more compact design that’s better suited to a modern living room, backwards compatibility spanning as far back as the Xbox 360, and a quieter cooling system.

But it’s Game Pass where the Xbox truly leaves the PlayStation 5 playing catch-up. The Netflix-style subscription service is an alternative to paying full price for new games – which regularly cost up to £70 – instead giving you access to more than 100 brilliant games on demand. These titles include every first-party game on the day of release, such as Forza Horizon 5, Gears of War and Halo as well as FIFA and Madden via EA Play, and lesser known indie games you might not have considered paying for, like Unpacked and Hades.

Read more: Where to buy the Xbox series X

For better or worse, Microsoft has been aggressively buying up some of the biggest games studios in the world in order to bolster its relatively weak selection of Xbox exclusive games. Most recently it acquired Activision-Blizzard for the largest sum in industry history, and before that it bought the owner of the Elder Scrolls and Fallout series of games. This means the biggest new releases could arrive first on Xbox, and perhaps never arrive on rival consoles.

Nintendo Switch OLED

  • CPU: NVIDIA Custom Tegra
  • GPU: 68MHz (docked)/307.2MHz (undocked) Nvidia custom Tegra SOC
  • Memory: 4GB RAM
  • Storage: 64GB (expandable)
  • Resolution: 1080p docked, 720p handheld
  • Pros: Larger OLED display, improved kickstand, bigger internal storage
  • Cons: No improvements in TV mode, same specs as the original Nintendo Switch

The Nintendo Switch OLED might not be the pro-level console many people had hoped it would be, but it is the Nintendo Switch machine you’ll want to pick up if you aren’t already in the Switch ecosystem, improving on its predecessor in all the most crucial aspects.

The OLED console has a larger and far more vibrant 7in display, boasting deeper blacks and more accurate colour reproduction. You also get 64GB of internal storage – that’s double the size of the Switch and Switch lite – and we absolutely adore the robust kickstand that stretches across the rear, making tabletop gaming more of a joy and less of a nuisance. There’s also an “enhanced speaker”, though we can’t really hear too much of a difference between it and the speaker on the previous model, as well as a new dock with an actual LAN port.

Read more: Nintendo Switch OLED review – the best version yet

On the surface, the OLED doesn’t seem like a radical departure from its predecessor – it is more of a cosmetic upgrade than anything else, so you won’t be getting any 4K resolution upscaling (it’s still 720p in handheld mode), or specs to rival the Xbox series X or PS5.

This is, however, the hybrid console to buy if you’re considering joining the Mario party, especially for those who want to play games in both handheld mode and on the TV.

Xbox Series S

  • CPU: 8X Cores @ 3.6 GHz (3.4 GHz w/SMT) Custom Zen 2 CPU
  • GPU: 4 TFLOPS, 20 CUs @1.565 GHz Custom RDNA 2 GPU
  • Memory: 10GB GDDR6 128 bit-wide bus
  • Storage: 512GB Custom NVME SSD
  • Resolution: 1440p up to 120 frames per second
  • Pros: Affordable, small
  • Cons: No disc drive, lack of 4K

The Xbox series S is remarkably good value for a gaming console in 2022. With the lowest price point for any of the major next-gen console manufacturers, it’s a good option for anyone looking for a cheap gaming solution that doesn’t need a 4K resolution to have a good time.

Combined with an Xbox game pass subscription, the Xbox series S will allow you to play a library of over 100 games, including Microsoft exclusive titles such as Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5. While the lack of disc drive is an understandable exclusion, the 512GB of internal storage on a digital-only console feels like a missed opportunity.

If you’re planning to load your new console up with some hefty games (Forza being one of them) then that space will run out quickly. There is an option to expand the internal storage by 1TB (£199.99, Argos.co.uk) but for the extra cost you could pick up an Xbox series X for the same money.

Steam Deck

  • CPU: AMD APU, Zen 2 4c/8t, 2.4-3.5GHz (up to 448 GFlops FP32)
  • GPU:AMD APU, 8 RDNA 2 CUs, 1.0-1.6GHz (up to 1.6 TFlops FP32)
  • Memory: 16 GB LPDDR5
  • Storage: 64GB/256GB/512GB (expandable)
  • Resolution: 1280 x 800 @ 60Hz
  • Pros: Play your PC games anywhere, install whatever software you want, biggest library of games of any console by far, remarkably cheap
  • Cons: Bulky, terrible battery life

The Steam Deck is a fully portable gaming PC, cramming the performance of a PlayStation into a form factor only slightly bigger than a Nintendo Switch, and costing a fraction of what you’d expect to pay for a comparable desktop computer.

Launched in February the handheld runs on Steam – the digital games storefront launched by Valve in 2003 – which means it arrives to market with a larger collection of games than any other console in history. Any games you already own on PC will appear on Steam Deck, and synchronised cloud saving mean that progress you make while playing on the handheld will carry over to your PC when you get back home.

Read more: Steam deck review – Valve’s handheld gaming PC is revolutionary

Compatibility was the biggest challenge in bringing Valve’s console to market. Whereas PlayStation and Xbox games just work, PC gaming is notoriously fiddly thanks to the incalculable number of potential hardware configurations and controller setups PC games are expected to work with. Valve has sought to remedy this with its SteamDeck Verified programme, which encourages developers to adapt their games to work seamlessly on the new handheld in return for a green-tick rating on the Steam storefront.

The company’s efforts have worked surprisingly well, with most Windows games we tested working seamlessly on the hardware, and even unverified games from 10 or 15 years ago running perfectly without any messing around.

Battery life is poor for a handheld – graphically intense games drain the battery in under two hours – but for PC gamers looking to untether themselves from the desk, or anyone looking to get into PC gaming for under £400, the SteamDeck is an irresistible proposal.

Nintendo Switch

  • CPU: NVIDIA Custom Tegra
  • GPU: 68MHz (docked)/307.2MHz (undocked) Nvidia custom Tegra SOC
  • Memory: 4GB RAM
  • Storage: 32GB (expandable)
  • Resolution: 1080p docked, 720p handheld
  • Pros: Fantastic design, doubles up as a portable and home console, extensive catalogue of exclusive games
  • Cons: Not very powerful, graphics aren’t great in handheld mode

The Nintendo Switch is the original home console hybrid which launched in 2017. Despite being five years old, it’s still an extremely capable machine. It’s a console that can be taken on the go as well as played at home on the TV and features a really innovative detachable wireless joy-con system that allows you to use the pair of controllers as one or independently of each other for two-player games.

Read more: 11 best Nintendo Switch games

In 2019, Nintendo quietly released a second version of the Nintendo Switch, dubbed the V2, which improved the console’s battery life. You won’t find the V1 being sold from reputable sellers anymore, so don’t worry about buying the wrong one.

As always, the big draw of a Nintendo console lies in its extensive catalogue of exclusive games, rather than the admittedly wanting specs of the machine. Whether it’s Super Mario, Animal Crossing, Metroid or Pokémon Legends: Arceus, you’ll need a Switch if you want to play any of these games. While the internal storage is nothing to write home about, you can always add a microSD to boost the storage, or opt for the newer Switch OLED console, which has twice as much internal storage.

PlayStation 4 Pro

  • CPU: x86-64 AMD “Jaguar”, 8 cores
  • GPU: 4.20 TFLOPS, AMD Radeon™ based graphics engine
  • Memory: GDDR5 8GB
  • Storage: 1TB
  • Resolution: 4K/HDR
  • Pros: Affordable, strong library
  • Cons: Outperformed by PS5

A games console is only as good as its library. While both the PS5 and Xbox series X are both in relative infancy, the PS4 has had nearly a decade to build up a library of some impressive games.

Now that it’s considered a “legacy” console, you can also get those games at a rather reasonable price. Titles such as Ratchet and Clank, Red Dead Redemption 2, The Last of Us and Spider-Man still look glorious on the older hardware and you would be able to find copies at most retailers.

The PS4 Pro is indisputably the best version of the last-gen Sony console, with 4K optimisation HDR support, and 1TB of storage space. Sure, it’s outmatched in most ways by the more recent PS5 but until they become more readily available, many of the Sony exclusives that have been released so far can also be played on the PS4. So if you can’t wait to get your hands on say, Horizon Forbidden West, you can still use your PS4 Pro to play many of those games before you get the chance to upgrade.

The verdict: Best gaming console

Clearly there isn’t a single best gaming console. Instead there are consoles to suit a range of players. The Nintendo Switch is a portable handheld that’s perfect for kids and adults alike. The Xbox series X and PlayStation 5 each have their own set of exclusive games you can’t find anywhere else, and which offer unprecedented visual fidelity, photorealistic graphics and smooth, seamless performance. The SteamDeck is a weirdo outsider for now, a portable PC with everything to prove.

If we had to choose just one, we’d lean ever so slightly towards the Xbox series X in 2022. Gaming consoles are only as good as their games, and while Sony’s first-party exclusives are among the very best, Microsoft’s newest console boasts the incredibly good value Game Pass membership. The company is aggressively promoting the service by snapping up exclusive games like they’re going out of fashion. If Xbox pursues this strategy of snowballing studios until it’s the biggest player around, the range of exclusive titles on Xbox series X and Xbox series S will explode in the next two or three years.

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Douglas Mateo

Douglas holds a position as a content writer at Neptune Pine. His academic qualifications in journalism and home science have offered her a wide base from which to line various topics. He has a proficiency in scripting articles related to the Health industry, including new findings, disease-related, or epidemic-related news. Apart from this, Douglas writes an independent blog and assists people in living healthy life.